The Obama presidency has showered us with a rich assortment of national disgraces, but few are more shameful than the fact that after more than five months, Marine Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi remains imprisoned by our southern neighbor, Mexico. But the real disgrace is that Obama’s not the only one showing a disproportionate lack of effort to set things right.
You may recall that he was arrested for the “crime” of missing an exit with guns in his car that were perfectly legal here but not in the country he never meant to enter in the first place and tried not to enter at all when he reached the border.
Despite this being precisely the sort of case the whole concept of prosecutorial discretion exists for, Mexican authorities are still intent on prosecuting. His life has been threatened, he has been chained to a bed like some drug-addled killer, and if prosecutors have their way he could face twenty years in prison.
As Sgt. Tahmooressi’s commander-in-chief, securing his release should be among Barack Obama’s highest priorities, right?
Incredibly, the White House’s response to this outrage fell far short of even the “good solid B-plus” standard. For one thing, it took nearly two months to get any reaction to what should have been handled within days. “We’ve been concerned,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said “we’ve been very engaged.” Why, they had John Kerry mention it to Mexican dignitaries and everything!
Yet clearly, whatever he said didn’t work, since Tahmooressi still isn’t free. Worse, she laid the groundwork of an excuse for abandoning him entirely: “Within a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s law and regulations.” Indeed, the White House’s official statement on the matter confirms how low they’re aiming: “We continue to urge the Mexican authorities to process this case expeditiously.”
Process the case? Allow Mexico to take away the next two decades of his life? Leave a Marine behind after declaring our duty not to do just that requires freeing dangerous enemy combatants mid-war?
Fortunately, in the United States the president isn’t a king. So when he is derelict, Congress can step up to the plate. So lo and behold, House Republicans have announced that they’re going to…hold a hearing. Next month.
Be still, my beating heart.
Noting that Tahmooressi had been receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder when he was arrested, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce says: “He needs to return to the United States for specific and urgent treatment,” the delay of which is “devastating.” But apparently not “devastating” or “urgent” enough to warrant doing this a little closer to March 31, or a gesture with more teeth than calling a meeting to chat about it.
We don’t need a hearing. All the relevant facts are already public knowledge. We know what happened and what needs to happen.
The only question is how do we get him out, and the answers aren’t complicated enough to need a committee to parse. The US gave Mexico over $50 million in foreign aid last year. Now, does anyone think making an example of one American is important enough to Mexico to risk that kind of money?
Telling Mexico they won’t see another US penny until they freed Tahmooressi should have been Obama’s line from Day 1, but the House can still do it. They have the power of the purse. And remember, the only reason the ObamaCare shutdown didn’t work in our favor was because Republicans didn’t lay the necessary narrative groundwork for the public to understand who was telling the truth. Does anyone seriously doubt the public would be far more receptive to a similar effort to free an American soldier from having his life destroyed over a technicality? That any Democrat who tried to demonize it would be inviting anger that makes the ObamaCare backlash look like a spring breeze?
It’s hard to see why lawmakers who wait half a year to lift a finger about crises they themselves call “urgent” deserve much more credit than presidents who do little more than issue noncommittal press releases. This committee seems less like a lifeline to a patriot in need than it does an attempt to be seen as “doing something” just before an election. Our men and women in uniform deserve better, especially from politicians telling us they’re the ones who support the troops.